Volume V, Issue 1

BOOKS

daffodils-in-snow.jpgI attended a press check of Our First Family’s Home: The Ohio Governor’s Residence and Heritage Garden (Ohio University Press) in Columbus on March 10, and if all goes well at the printer and binder the book will be released in late April. Additional information about the book, which will be available in both paperback ($20) and hardcover ($35), is available from the Ohio University Press Website:

http://www.ohioswallow.com/book/Our+First+Family%E2%80%99s+Home

I will be joining Ohio’s First Lady Frances Strickland to sign copies of the book at an Ohioana Book Festival in Columbus on May 10, 2008 from 10:30 am to 4:30 pm. More details on the book festival can be found on the Ohioana Website:

http://www.ohioana.org/ohioanafeb08.pdf

WORKSHOPS , SEMINARS & SLIDE PROGRAMS

tn_riffle_snaketail.jpgPart of the July, 2007 newsletter was devoted to observing and photographing dragonflies. This will be the theme for my slide program, Gossamer Wings: Observing & Photographing Ohio’s Dragonflies & Damselflies on March 29 in Columbus, Ohio at the annual meeting of the Ohio Odonata Society. I will be providing tips on finding and photographing these elegant creatures, as well as sharing photographs of many of Ohio’s resident dragonflies and damselflies. Contact Steve Chordas at (614)-421-7159 for more information.

The following week, on April 5, Ohio’s Public Gardens & Arboretums will be the subject of my slide presentation at the Akron-Summit Main Library in Akron, Ohio. This program showcases many of Ohio’s finest public gardens, including Cleveland Botanical Garden, The Holden Arboretum, Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens in Akron, Kingwood Center in Mansfield, and Inniswood Metro Gardens and Franklin Park Conservatory in Columbus. Call Cheryl Luck at (330)-643-9075 for more information.

My one-day Holden Arboretum workshop, The Beauty of Trees, on April 19, will provide tips for photographing the beauty and variety of trees with digital cameras, followed by an afternoon field session to explore Holden’s woodlands and display gardens in search of images of tree buds, flowers, bark patterns, and emerging spring foliage. We’ll meet again on May 7 from 7-9 pm for a review and critique of photos taken during the workshop. This program is designed for beginners and intermediate photographers. For more information call (440)-946-4400.

There are still one or two spaces available for experienced photographers who may wish to join my Hocking Hills Photo Tour on April 24-27, sponsored by Cuyahoga Valley Photo Society. The Hocking Hills includes some of Ohio’s most rugged scenery, and the emphasis will be on field photography sessions focusing on rock canyons, waterfalls, wildflowers, ferns, and flowering trees and shrubs. Evening sessions will cover digital workflow, using Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom, creating Powerpoint slide programs and color inkjet prints, building and maintaining a photography website, and tips for marketing your photography. More information on this photo tour, which is limited to 15 participants, can be obtained from the Cuyahoga Valley National Park Association, (330)-657-2909. To view some photographs of the scenic Hocking hills area, check out my Website Portfolio, using “Hocking Hills” in the search field.

The University of Akron’s Workforce Development and Continuing Education group will hold another two-day Digital Nature Photography Workshop on May 2-3. The workshop includes a half-day field photography session in Cuyahoga Valley National Park and 1½ days of intensive classroom instruction on the basics of digital nature photography. For more information, call (330)-972-7577 or visit the University of Akron’s website at: http://www.uakron.edu/ce/schedules/Photog2.php. This workshop is especially suitable for beginners in digital photography.

You may also wish to consider the 2½-day Lake Erie Islands Photography Workshop on June 6-8, 2008 at Ohio State University’s Stone Laboratory on Gibraltar Island at Put-in-Bay in northwest Ohio. Stone Laboratory conducts research on a variety of Great Lakes environmental issues, and the photogenic island scenery together with the excellent amenities at Put-in-Bay makes a very enjoyable combination. Participants stay in cottages on Gibraltar Island, the food and facilities are excellent, and a Stone Laboratory boat is available for field photography trips to Middle Bass and South Bass Islands.

Photographic subjects included sunrises and sunsets, a historic winery, cliff scenery and glacial grooves, the harbor at Put-in-Bay full of boats and water birds, a lighthouse, wildflowers and gardens. And at a price of only $450, including tuition, lodging and meals for 2½ days, this program is very attractively priced. Contact Kelly Dress at (419)-285-1800 for more information or to register for the workshop. This workshop will appeal to both beginners and more seasoned photographers.

Finally, I’m pleased to be offering my first 2-day Travel Photography Workshop on Saturday, May 31 and Saturday, June 14 at Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C). Tri-C asked me to help design a new curriculum in digital photography for their Continuing Education programs, and also invited me to teach a photography workshop. Since I’m already teaching several workshops in digital nature and garden photography for other organizations, I decided that a Travel Photography Workshop might be a way to help folks improve the quality of their photography on vacation and other travel trips. More details about the workshop, as well as information on how to register, are included in this PDF.

NEW WEBSITE FEATURES

trumpeter-swans-on-ice.jpgThe searchable Website gallery has now been expanded to 1100 photographs, including images from Michigan, New York, Maine, South Carolina and Georgia. More photographs from other states I have visited will be added over the next few months. Many of these images were taken prior to 2003 using film, so please be patient as I try to find the time to scan the hundreds of color transparencies and fine-tune the digital files with Photoshop before creating the JPEGs for the Website gallery.

During April, we will also be implementing an “eCommerce” version of the ImageFolio software that is used to maintain the Website gallery, and visitors will be able to order Epson Ultrachrome color prints of any of the gallery photographs in a variety of sizes. Books and posters will also soon be available for sale using this new facility.

POINT – & – SHOOT VS. SINGLE-LENS-REFLEX DIGITAL CAMERAS

shadbush.jpgToday virtually everyone owns a compact “point-&-shoot” (P&S) digital camera. Many are smaller than a pack of cards, and they are often included in cell phones. About half of the people who attend my digital photography workshops bring a P&S digital camera. The others bring a digital single-lens-reflex (SLR) camera with one or more interchangeable lenses. Let’s consider the pros and cons of digital P&S vs. SLR cameras.

P&S digital cameras are very compact and portable. Features include a 4-12 megapixel sensor that is sealed against dust, a motorized, non-interchangeable zoom lens with autofocus, and an automatic exposure metering system. Most have a “macro” feature for close-ups, a built-in flash, and some are image-stabilized, which minimizes hand-held camera shake. P&S cameras are also affordable, retailing from $50 to $500.

ice-pattern-kent-bog.jpgThere are, however, several important limitations. Most P&S cameras have poor viewfinders, or none at all, so you have to compose the picture on the camera’s LCD screen, which can be hard to see in bright light. Shutter release lag is often a problem, and at high ISO settings (over 400), image quality deteriorates rapidly. P&S cameras rarely provide manual focusing or user controls such as shutter speed and f/stops; many do not accept filters. Very few P&S cameras offer RAW files, which provide higher quality and more flexibility than JPEG files. P&S lenses exhibit great depth-of-field, which is useful in scenic photography, but can be limiting when you want a diffuse background, as in a flower portrait. It’s also hard to control harsh lighting with the built-in flash, and most P&S cameras won’t allow you to connect a separate flash unit.

Single-lens-reflex digital cameras (SLRs) have made great strides in recent years, and are becoming increasingly affordable. They feature larger (6-21 megapixels) digital sensors, plus interchangeable lenses. Digital SLRs typically have bright optical viewfinders and a full range of focusing and exposure options. Most SLR lenses are threaded to accept filters. This combination of larger sensors and precision lenses provides better image quality than P&S digital cameras can produce, especially at high ISO settings. Most professional photographers use digital SLR cameras as their primary equipment.

The extra features of digital SLR’s come at a higher price, from $500 for an entry-level model to more than $8000 for Canon’s new 21-megapixel EOS 1Ds Mark III. Lenses range from $100 for a “kit” zoom lens to more than $10,000 for a top-of-the-line 600mm super telephoto lens. The good news is that an entry-level digital SLR camera body with a kit lens (typically an 18-70mm zoom), capable of producing professional quality photos, can be purchased for $500-$750, not much more than a high-quality P&S digital camera. Canon and Nikon are the most popular brands, but high-quality digital SLRs are also made by Fuji, Olympus, Panasonic, Pentax, Sony and Sigma. Besides cost, the only downside to digital SLRs is their larger size and weight, and the need to periodically remove dust from their digital sensors.

Recently I purchased Canon’s new Powershot G9 P&S camera. For casual snapshots, it provides excellent image quality (including RAW files) at low ISO settings (100 and 200) and pocket-sized convenience for less than $450. For most of my professional photography, I use a Nikon D2X SLR and ED Nikkor lenses. As a backup, I use a Fuji S5 Pro SLR, which has slightly lower resolution than the D2X but wider dynamic range, which is useful in high-contrast light. This combination of P&S and SLR digital cameras provides the best of both worlds.

PHOTOGRAPHING ICE PATTERNS

ice-formation-medina-county.jpgIn northeast Ohio we’ve received several major snowstorms and periods of heavy rain during the past few weeks, and in other areas of the Midwest major flooding has occurred. On March 8, a record two feet of snow fell on my driveway in a single day, and I decided to hire a snow removal service to plough my drive rather than risk a heart attack by trying to shovel it myself.

The melting snows and heavy rains in late winter are often accompanied by a hard freeze overnight, and this can create intricate ice patterns on lakes and ponds that are excellent subjects for photography. Virtually any water surface can provide these ice patterns, including puddles in your back yard, farm fields, wetlands, the edges of rivers and streams, and the vast expanses of ice that cover the Great Lakes in most winters. Ideal conditions are sub-zero early morning temperatures accompanied by a clear or partly cloudy sky. Dress warmly, and consider wearing Yak Trax or similar attachments on your boots for added stability on the icy ground.

When you have found an ice pattern that you would like to photograph, examine it carefully from different positions to determine the best angle of lighting. Usually I find that either shooting directly into the light, or with the sun in front of me at about a 45 degree angle, provides the best lighting to emphasize the patterns in the ice. If the sun is behind you the ice patterns may not even be visible. The height of the camera above the ice is also critical. A few inches too high, or too low, and the ice pattern will virtually disappear. I handhold my camera, usually with a 24-70mm or 70-200mm zoom lens attached, while I figure out the precise position and angle to set up the camera, and whether the ice pattern composes best as a vertical or horizontal image.

Next, set up your tripod, attach the camera and lens at the precise position you have just determined, and compose the photograph. To maximize depth-of-field, focus on a point about one-third of the distance into the scene, or roughly halfway up the picture frame. The lower the camera position, the more you will need to stop down the lens aperture to ensure adequate depth-of-field. With a digital SLR camera, try to use f/11 or f/16, and avoid f/22 or smaller apertures, which provide greater depth-of-field but only at the expense of lower edge sharpness due to an optical effect called diffraction. With point-&-shoot cameras, which possess greater depth-of-field because of their smaller focal length lenses, you should be able to achieve sharp focus at aperture settings of f/8 or less. If your SLR camera provides the option, use the mirror lock-up facility in conjunction with a cable release to further minimize camera shake. Most cameras and lenses that are equipped with vibration-reduction require you to turn off this feature when the camera is mounted on a tripod.

If you are lucky enough to own a Canon or Nikon tilt/shift lens, you can use the “tilt” feature to obtain sharp focus across the plane of the ice at a larger f/stop setting, which provides higher resolution. To maximize the working distance (so you don’t have to crawl out on the ice!) the Canon TS-E 90mm F2.8 Tilt Shift lens (about $1600 new) or the similar Nikon 85mm PC Micro Nikkor lens (about $1350 new) are more useful than the 45mm (Canon) or 24mm (Canon and Nikon) versions of these lenses.

If you own a circular polarizing filter, you may be able to use it to further refine the color and tonality of the photograph. Examine the image in the camera’s viewfinder as you slowly rotate the polarizing filter. At certain positions, the colors in the photograph will appear more saturated. At other positions, the reflections from the ice, which are integral to the image, may almost disappear. The challenge is to find the position that provides the best overall effect on the tonality and color saturation of the scene without eliminating the delineation of the ice patterns.

As always, I recommend that you shoot in RAW mode to maximize image quality and provide the most flexibility when fine-tuning your digital ice photographs. I use the ACR raw converter in Adobe’s Photoshop CS3 or Lightroom to adjust tonality and color, followed by additional fine-tuning, if needed, with the Curves and Hue/Saturation commands. To sharpen the image, use Photoshop’s Smart Sharpen command, or the excellent Photokit Sharpener plug-in from Pixel Genius.

To inspire you, we’ve included several ice pattern photographs as part of this newsletter. Additional examples may be found in my website gallery – just enter “ice” in the search box at the top of the page.

Enjoy this late winter opportunity to breathe some fresh air, dust off your camera gear, and practice your field photography skills as you search for interesting ice patterns in your area.

Good luck, and send me an email if I can help further in any way.

Best wishes from Ian and Fuji.

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